Following in the footsteps of many of the county’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs, Matt Ertman is aiming to become a true renaissance man.
Ertman entered the world of business ownership with the purchase of a single semi truck. Now, almost 20 years later, his fledgling transport business has expanded to a full fleet.
Ertman didn’t stop there. In the past few years, he’s applied his business acumen to new ventures that include a truck repair business and, more unexpectedly, a full bar in Mankato that Ertman calls “a fun house for grown kids.”
How did he do it?
According to Ertman, the answer is simple.
“I started working and built up from there,”he says.
Ertman established his first business, Ertman Trucking, in 2004. The business provided livestock transportation services.
“We’re right around 100,000 pigs a week,”Ertman appreciates. “We have 24 trucks on the road every day.”
Meanwhile, Ertman’s second business, Ertman Truck Repair, arose as a natural extension of Ertman Trucking.
Already a veteran in the trucking community, Ertman soon noticed that there was a clear need for truck repair services in the area.
“Every time you took a semi-finished product somewhere, it looked like a shoddy job,”Ertman recalls. “In 2015 I started hiring mechanics to work on my own stuff. In 2019, I opened up to the public.”
“I know it’s harder to get good quality service in this area,”he adds.
Ertman Truck Repair was originally located on 450th Avenue, near Highway 109. Ertman was not particularly happy with the location, which was six miles outside of Blue Earth and a significant diversion from the interstate.
As such, Ertman decided to relocate. Ertman Truck Repair will now officially open its doors at its new location at 108 Faribault Drive, in the Golden Spike Business Park, on Monday, August 22.
Ertman is excited about the opportunities the new location – just a short walk from I-90 – will bring to the business.
“There is currently no service center along the I-90 corridor,”Ertman notes. “We need a full body shop to rebuild transmissions, differentials and stuff like that.”
Ertman Truck Repair specializes in Cummins diesel engines, offering complete rebuilds on any engine as well as transmission, clutch and driveline replacements.
“Anything a semi tractor or trailer needs, we can make it.”Ertman summarizes. “Making clamps, welding aluminum – It’s kind of like a one-stop shop.”
He adds that while not every repair shop can perform a Department of Transportation (DOT)-certified inspection, all Ertman Truck Repair employees are DOT-certified.
After Ertman Truck Repair’s move, Ertman plans to expand the business’ services into parts sales.
Still, Ertman admits that among the many challenges the pandemic has brought to truckers, it has made parts harder to find.
“Some of the parts take a week to 10 days to come out,”Ertman says. “There are also cost increases.”
The pandemic has also left many businesses with labor shortages. However, Ertman is happy to report that he currently has four full-time mechanics and is able to keep his shop open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. He may increase his hours at a later date to accommodate more customers.
Ertman recommends that trucks be serviced every 5,000 miles.
“You’d think that’s a lot of miles, but when you drive it every day, it’s not,”he says. “There always seems to be something broken.”
Ertman himself will be logging a lot of miles on his personal car in the coming months. His latest business, JD’s Hideaway, recently opened in Mankato.
After years in the trucking business, one might wonder why Ertman decided to open a bar. Ertman, however, claims “Everyone should have something different in their life. You don’t want to keep all your eggs in one basket.
A brand new business, JD’s Hideaway opened in downtown Mankato on August 4th.
The Adult Fun House offers pool tables, darts and ax throwing, along with food and drink.
“There’s nothing like it in Mankato, and I wanted to be the first,”Ertman says. “I just love this area. It has a good population and is a student town.”
While Ertman will certainly book some work hours in Mankato in the coming weeks, the Faribault County native is keeping his heart at home.
“I’ve lived here all my life,”he says, adding that he grew up in a Winnebago. “I like the community and I like the area.”
His family has indeed put down roots in the county. Ertman’s wife, Lisa, recently completed her nursing training.
Meanwhile, Ertman says his sons Drake, nine, and Gage, six, have already expressed interest in taking over his business someday, much to his delight.
“My overall goal is to build something for my kids down the line,”Ertman explains, concluding, “I came out of nowhere and worked my way up to where I am now. I am very lucky.”